Klaus Goebel 1926–2009

Klaus Goebel, an early leading figure in radiation protection at CERN, passed away on 1 October 2009.

Klaus came to CERN in 1956 together with Wolfgang Gentner for whom he had worked as an assistant from 1954 to 1955, after gaining a diploma in economics and a doctorate in physics at the University of Freiburg, Germany.

During these early years at CERN, Klaus measured isotope concentrations in meteorites and, as leader of the Spallation Research Group, he used the Synchrocyclotron (SC) to measure isotope production by protons. This interest in trace measurements carried over into his work in CERN’s Health Physics Group, which he joined in 1962. He took over successively the radiation-protection work at the SC and the Proton Synchrotron and become deputy group leader. In the years 1969–70 he spent a sabbatical as a health physicist at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory.

When Klaus came back to CERN the preparatory work for the construction of the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) was under way. In 1971 John Adams called on him as leader of the Radiation Group to design the SPS Radiation-Protection System. It was the first computer-controlled on-line radiation detection and alarm system employed inside the accelerator tunnel (radiation-damage protection), in experimental areas (radiation protection of people) and for the site (environmental protection).

With the completion of the SPS in 1976 Klaus took over the responsibility for radiation safety for the whole of CERN, changing the name of the relevant group from Health Physics to Radiation Protection. Increasing awareness of radiation risks called for frequent reviews of procedures and for the availability of full information, both inside and outside the laboratory – in particular during the planning of the Large Electron–Positron Collider.

Public awareness of radiation issues grew tremendously following the Chernobyl accident in 1986. In view of his contributions in the field of radiation protection, Klaus was elected president of the Fachverband für Strahlenschutz (The Swiss-German Radiation-Protection Society) in 1988 during the critical period following the accident. While working at CERN his expertise in radiation-protection matters was frequently requested elsewhere, for example, for the spallation neutron source project in Karlsruhe and for the radiation-protection system for the JET fusion project in Culham, UK.

When Klaus retired in June 1991 he continued to be active in his field, in particular in various activities within the Ettore Majorana Foundation and Centre for Scientific Culture Erice, where he also acted as director of the International School of Radiation Damage and Protection from 1994 to 2005.

Klaus leaves his wife Elfriede and two children, to whom we convey our condolences.

His colleagues and friends.


Faheem Hussain 1942–2009

A flamboyant character and a theoretical physicist who was quickly at ease in different languages and cultures, Faheem Hussain made his best contributions to science in, and for, international settings.

As an Indian Muslim born before partition in 1947, he was not a native Pakistani. His family moved there, where he grew up and became a keen sportsman. After initial studies at the University of the Punjab in Lahore, he earned his doctorate in 1966 from Imperial College, London, with Paul Matthews and Abdus Salam. It was there that he helped make the first predictions of Salam’s U(6,6) symmetry theory. Although this failed as a template for particle physics, Hussain’s doctoral work earned him a research associateship at the Enrico Fermi Institute, Chicago, from 1966 to 1968.

He returned to Pakistan in 1968, where he joined Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, and soon influenced a new generation of bright, young physicists. In the years 1975–1977 he served as chairman of the physics department, becoming full professor in 1985.

While in the US, the Vietnam war had kindled his deep sense of social justice. Once stirred, this empathy stayed with him: he and his American wife, Jane Steinfels, became immersed in Pakistan’s socio-political issues, fearlessly helping victims of authoritarianism.

Unable to make any dent in its iron regimes, Hussain left Pakistan in 1989 and joined the Johannes-Gutenberg University, Mainz. There, with Juergen Koerner, George Thompson and others, he calculated relativistic-wave functions for hadrons and used Salam’s formalism to develop a variant of the effective heavy-quark theory. The Mainz group went on to make valuable contributions to the study of heavy baryon decays.

In 1990 Hussain became a senior staff scientist at Salam’s International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Trieste, developing its high-energy-physics diploma programme. He then took over ICTP’s Office of External Activities, assisting young physicists and mathematicians in developing countries. He retired from ICTP in 2004 and moved back to Pakistan, initially at the National Centre of Physics in Islamabad, and later Lahore’s University of Management Studies, where he helped to establish a science faculty.

Alongside his administrative roles, he remained active in theoretical physics, working on superstrings, extra dimensions and non-commutative geometry. His experience also made him well qualified to write about science and technology in emerging societies. Hussain’s gentleness and modesty always made him popular. Plagued by ill health in his short retirement, he returned for treatment to Trieste, where he married Sara, who he had met earlier at ICTP. He died on 29 September.

Above all, Hussain was socially concerned, continually striving to help the underprivileged, and unafraid to battle against dark forces of oppression wherever he saw them. His exuberance and spirit will be missed by the international science community and by his widespread friends and family.

His friends.